Cornell basketball: The Bill Courtney Era

The Cornell men’s basketball team shocked the nation en route to their first Sweet 16 appearance in school history. The Red have won three straight Ivy League championships, and thus three straight NCAA tourney appearances since the winner of the Ivy League gets the automatic bid to the big dance.

And the Red were dancing last year, finishing off Temple in the first round in the now-typical 5 seed-12 seed upset. Led by seniors Louis Dale, Jeff Foote, Jon Jaques and Ryan Wittman, the Red held the highest three point shooting percentage in the nation, and create a story book that had yet to be created on the East Hill above the scenic college town of Ithaca, N.Y.

But my arrival to Ithaca comes at a great cost: those four seniors are gone and all playing professional basketball overseas. Also gone is coach Steve Donahue, who took the head coaching job at Boston College.

As a Cornellian, I feel I have missed out on the unprecedented success of the basketball team. There was no Princeton or Harvard dominating the Ivy league. That belonged to Cornell for three seasons.

The question is, how hard will it be to four-peat? Let’s put it this way, the only returning starter is Chris Wroblewski, who played a prominent role last season, but was often overshadowed by his quartet counterpart.

The Bill Courtney Era has officially begun, and an entire decade of Steve Donahue basketball a distant memory.

But throwing journalistic integrity aside here, one cannot help but feel a sense of confidence and anticipation toward a new season, a new era, a new regime taking the reigns of a program that now needs to set a precedence in the new chapter of success that has been created.

The Red were picked to finish third in the Ivy League this season, behind the two teams that have dominated Ivy League basketball since the Red’s sudden arrival during the 2007-08 season: Princeton and Harvard.

Princeton was the last Ivy League team to reach the Sweet 16, and that was 1996, when they upset defending champion UCLA in the first round, creating renown hysteria called “the Princeton offense.”

But meeting with Courtney has made me feel that this program is on the right track, and has the capability of reaching new heights.

Wroblewski is he true leader of this team, and carries what little weight there is left offensively. After all, he is the top returning scorer, averaging 8.3 points a game last season.

It might not be this year, maybe not even next year, but the Red will find a way to co-exist under Courtney’s regime. His collective manner, passion for the game and outgoing personality makes him the player’s coach.

A deviation from the more serious, but collective Donahue, but maybe a new style of coaching is exactly what the Red need.

Their new journey begins Nov. 12 when they take on Albany. Also accompanying Wroblewski are reserves Errick Peck, Max Groebe and Adam Wire who now have the opportunity to step in as role players.

A 29-5 season and a Sweet 16 appearance is a tough void to fill, and even tougher precedent to set.

But while Rome was not built in a day, neither was the Donahue regime. It took Donahue seven years to build the foundation that changed the face of Red basketball.

Courtney is asked to do it in the two years I have left here. At least so transfers like me can experience what many Cornellians have felt each of the past three seasons: unprecedented success.

The time is now. Will the Red be able to shine under the spotlight and create a new chapter of success? Or will there be a case of “writer’s block,” putting the novel temporarily on hold?